IDC: PC shipments slower but still robust to 2005

Despite expectations that worldwide PC shipments over the next two years won't be able to match figures for 2003, the forecast is still one of double-digit growth through 2005, market research firm IDC said Wednesday in its Quarterly PC Tracker estimate.

Worldwide PC shipments are now expected to grow 11.4 percent in 2004, and 11.2 percent in 2005. That compares with a 11.7 percent growth rate in 2003 with 154.5 million units shipped, IDC said.

"This is not the growth rate of the late '90s, but it's still pretty healthy," said Roger Kay, vice president of client computing for IDC. "The late '90s was a period of accumulation and we're now past that point."

Beyond 2005, growth in worldwide PC shipments is projected to slow to about 8 percent through 2008, IDC said. Shipment value is expected to grow by more than 5 percent for the next two years, followed by growth of roughly 3 percent through 2008.

Interest in laptops and wireless technology, from both the consumer and enterprise sectors, is a driving factor in the market's growth worldwide, but particularly in the U.S. and Western Europe, Kay said. "Wireless is becoming a check-box item for businesses," he said. "Part of the reason for that is because enterprises are having to deal with employees who are doing wireless on their own at home, which does raise some security issues for companies."

In 2004, 172.1 million units are expected to be shipped worldwide, with the U.S. accounting for 58.5 million of those units. The worldwide commercial sector in 2004 can expect shipments of 109.9 million units, a growth rate of 12.1 percent, while the consumer sector is forecast to have 62.1 million units shipped on a 10.2 percent yearly growth rate.

"Enterprises have cannibalized their closets so to speak and now need to refresh technology with new PC purchases," Kay said. "Meanwhile, consumer spending is still growing, despite poor job growth. Consumers haven't been tapped out in terms of their PC spending."

U.S. demand for laptops, or "portables," is projected to be up by 30 percent over the next two years, growth that will more than offset an expected decline in public sector spending, due in part to this year's presidential election. "Election years throw funny things into IT spending projections. For example, questions about future tax polices become an issue," Kay said. Spending in the government sector is expected to drop, especially in the areas of education and federal spending, he said.

In other regions, both consumer and business demand in Western Europe will remain strong into 2005 due to rapid portables adoption and improving price points, IDC said. "Western Europe is forecast to be slightly stronger than the U.S. in 2004 though that will most likely reverse in 2005," Kay said.

IDC projected growth in the PC market in Japan, which is expected to rise from 2.8 percent in 2003 to around 6 percent in 2004 and 2005, while the Asia-Pacific region in general will remain in double digits throughout the period. "China is really the engine in the region though India is becoming very interesting and also showing strong growth," Kay said. "The Asia-Pacific market was under penetrated but is now in full-swing."

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Laura Rohde

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